Ubiquitous Learning: What Every Education Organization Needs To Know

Ubiquitous Learning: What Every Education Organization Needs to Know
Summary: While a variety of platforms have been developed and tested in the eLearning space -blended learning, flipped classrooms, gamified learning, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and more- the perspective of ubiquitous learning has rarely been applied in a concrete way to real online/computer-based educational efforts. This article presents a broad view of ubiquitous learning in the Professional Education context and some quick ways for education organizations to begin building ubiquitous learning efforts.

What Is Ubiquitous Learning And How Can You Use It? 

Constant connectivity and technological saturation aren’t abstract concepts any longer: They're here, and they have the potential to provide an unbroken stream of a variety of media to people around the globe. This means everyone has a constant opportunity to learn; something that education-oriented organizations should be tapping into.

As technologies continue to make learning more convenient, more effective, and more ubiquitous, education companies should be making learning materials ever more available. The shift from teacher-and-blackboard to teacher-and-technology doesn't just represent an evolution of tools used, but of capabilities realized. eLearning is eliminating and greatly reducing many traditional barriers to education, including distance and cost. There are already more than 2.5 million K-12 students enrolled in online learning courses in the US, along with 32% (approx. 6.7 million) higher ed students.

More than a quarter of all corporate training hours are now delivered online and/or via other computer-based technology, too.

The term “ubiquitous computing” was first coined by Mark Weiser during his years as a researcher at Xerox PARC over thirty years ago. Though the philosophical underpinnings and physical manifestations of this concept continue to be debated and refined, the world is at or near the tipping point for the total cultural adoption of ubiquitous computing. Most of us walk around with powerful computers (i.e. smartphones) in our pockets, and computers are increasingly found in all of the devices we interact with, from our cars to our televisions to our kitchen appliances, home thermostats, and so on.

Ubiquitous learning is a natural outgrowth of ubiquitous computing. It refers to the constant opportunity for learning experiences and media transfer/communication that our constant computing connectivity provides. Any situation can provide an opportunity for learning, with or without computers; the increased pervasiveness of computer technology and especially the internet means any situation can become a purposeful instructional experience; not only can people learn at any time, but they can receive media that is explicitly learning-focused.

For our purposes, ubiquitous learning = eLearning + mobile learning 

The right material delivered in the right way at the right time and place can make all the difference in educational outcomes. Ubiquitous learning means educators will never miss the perfect opportunity, and learners will benefit from the result.

Ubiquitous learning begins with accessibility. Chances are your association already has some educational materials available online and/or in digital formats. Make sure these resources are accessible to your members across all platforms and devices; desktop computers, mobile devices, and even wearable tech like Google Glass and the Apple Watch. Making it easy for your members to access materials when and where they want to improves engagement and educational success rates.  Studies show that we are up to 12% more productive when we’re happily engaged in a task, so putting in the effort to allow your members to learn when and where it best suits them is very much worthwhile.

Internet and computer access has grown by leaps and bounds in the past several years, to the point that 86.75% of people in the United States have regular and reliable internet access, and 71.4% of the US population owns a smartphone (amongst 25-54 year olds, that jumps to 79%). Your members are part of the ubiquitous computing world; give them the best ubiquitous learning experience you can.

A Broad View Of Ubiquitous Learning In The Professional Association Context

All communication should be considered education, from blog posts to newsletters to lists of membership benefits and resources. Making the most of ubiquitous learning means understanding that your messages and media don't have to be explicitly education-oriented to become a part of your members' ubiquitous learning experience. Put all of your communications online, and give your members ubiquitous access when it comes to learning about your association and the profession you represent.

The more convenient learning becomes, the more effective it is for all concerned. eCommerce retailer Shopzilla was able to improve revenue by 12% and page views by 25% by simply reducing page load time. Chances are you can make some much bigger improvements to the convenience of your available information, and reap even bigger rewards.

It's easy to get started, too.

4 Quick Ways To Begin Building Your Ubiquitous Learning Efforts

  1. Ensure that your website is easy to navigate, has clear and focused messaging, and has clear calls to action.
    According to an Entrepreneur.com study, these are things that all web users notice and find important.
  2. Make improvements to your email outreach.
    91% of the US population uses their email daily, and email has three time more engagement than social media. Encourage your members to sign up for an emailed RSS feed with your latest update, and use one of the many services available to make customized mass emails easy to set up and send.
  3. Start developing a long-term mobile strategy that makes use of apps.
    Users interact with mobile apps a whopping thirty hours per month, compared with just four hours spent browsing standard web pages on mobile devices. Mobile push notifications can keep everyone updated about important news and events, and can increase app engagement as much as 88%. Meet your members where they are, with the media they're choosing to use.
  4. Create platforms for members to create their own relevant content and interact with each other.
    User generated content such as blogs, forum questions and answers, videos, and even full learning courses are virtually cost-free to your association, and it creates greater loyalty and a sense of ownership amongst your members. It is also 20% more influential in purchase decisions and takes up 30% of the media consumed by those 18-36 years old.

The interaction fostered by user generated content allows for improved and more extensive learning experiences, as well. 70% of all professional learning is informal, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and one's knowledge network is far more indicative of their learning potential than is their current knowledge. Hosting learning sessions, member forums, and finding other ways to share user generated content in interactive platforms can all create new and ongoing learning experiences that position your association as a thought leader in your industry.

These steps are just the start of creating a true ubiquitous learning environment, but invest some time and resources here and you'll see immediate results.

Ubiquitous Learning Is Broad, Pervasive, And Nuanced

New technologies present new opportunities, and they also require a new perspective. To plant your association's educational efforts firmly into the twenty-first century, you'll need to adapt to the fact that your members will find a source for all of the information they can handle. You can be a ubiquitous force in shaping and delivering that information, or your members will turn elsewhere to be informed.

I think the choice is clear.